Pycreus lanceolatus (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Pycreus lanceolatus (Poir.) C.B.Clarke

Protologue: Consp. Fl. Afr. 5: 538 (1894).
Family: Cyperaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 42


  • Cyperus lanceolatus Poir. (1806),
  • Pycreus propinquus Nees (1842).

Vernacular names

  • Epiphytic flatsedge, lance sedge (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Pycreus lanceolatus is widely distributed in tropical Africa, tropical America and the southern United States.


In Madagascar the stems of Pycreus lanceolatus are used for plaiting.


Perennial, loosely tufted herb with a short rhizome or with distant stems arising from creeping stolons; stems up to 75 cm tall and 0.5–2 mm in diameter, 3-angled in cross-section, glabrous, with scales at the base. Leaves inserted in the lower part of the stem; sheath glabrous, dark brown; ligule membranous; blade linear, up to 40 cm × 4 mm, with scabrid margin and midvein (at least near the apex). Inflorescence a terminal, globose head-like anthela 1–4 cm in diameter, with usually many, tightly packed spikelets; bracts 2–3, leafy, spreading, up to 22 cm long. Spikelets sessile, linear-lanceolate, 5–28 mm × 2–4 mm, pale yellow-brown, many-flowered; glumes distichous, ovate, 2–3 mm long, lowermost ones smaller, obtuse at the apex, pale or golden brown, often with red-brown patches and a green midvein; flowers bisexual, stamens 1–3, ovary superior, 1-locular, stigmas 2. Fruit an obovate nutlet 1–1.5 mm × 0.5–1 mm, apiculate, biconvex, grey, red-brown or black, minutely papillose, 1-seeded.

In Senegal Pycreus lanceolatus flowers in August–December(–January).

Pycreus comprises c. 80 species, distributed in the tropical, subtropical and temperate regions of the world. Pycreus intactus (Vahl) J.Raynal (synonyms: Cyperus intactus Vahl, Pycreus ferrugineus (Poir.) C.B.Clarke) is a perennial herb with stems up to 65 cm tall, recorded from Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Réunion, Asia and the Americas. In Madagascar its stems are used for plaiting. The stems of Pycreus rhizomatosus C.B.Clarke (synonym: Pycreus commersonii (C.B.Clarke) Cherm.), endemic to Madagascar, are also used for plaiting. Pycreus mundtii Nees (synonym: Cyperus mundtii (Nees) Kunth) is a perennial, stoloniferous herb with stems up to 40(–60) cm tall, distributed throughout Africa and the Mediterranean region, and rare in tropical America. In experiments in the 1950s using the sulphate process the pulp yield of material from Zimbabwe was low and the pulp was wet and fairly weak. The stem is recorded to be unsuitable for thatching. Pycreus mundtii is a C4 plant. In Madagascar it is a troublesome weed in rice fields.


Pycreus lanceolatus occurs from sea level up to 2100 m altitude on river banks, in marshes, wet grassland and other wet locations. It is a common weed in rice fields.


Natural reproduction of Pycreus lanceolatus is by seed and rhizomes.

Genetic resources

In view of its wide distribution and common occurrence Pycreus lanceolatus seems not liable to genetic erosion.


Pycreus lanceolatus is only locally used for plaiting, and its importance is unlikely to increase.

Major references

  • Akobundu, I.O. & Agyakwa, C.G., 1998. A handbook of West African weeds. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria. 564 pp.
  • Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
  • Lye, K.A., 1997. Cyperaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse, Demissew Sebsebe & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 6. Hydrocharitaceae to Arecaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 391–511.
  • Vanden Berghen, C., 1988. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Monocotylédones et Ptéridophytes. Volume 9. Monocotylédones: Agavacées à Orchidacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 522 pp.

Other references

  • Ball, P.W., Reznicek, A.A. & Murray, D.F. (Editors), 2003. Cyperaceae. [Internet] Flora of North America. Volume 23. florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=10246. June 2011.
  • Chittenden, A.E. & Morton, D., 1955. Rushes from northern Rhodesia investigated as papermaking materials. Colonial Plant and Animal Products 5(3): 217–229.
  • Ellery, K., Ellery, W.N. & Verhagen, B.Th., 1992. The distribution of C3 and C4 plants in a successional sequence in the Okavango Delta. South African Journal of Botany 58(5): 400–402.
  • Hoenselaar, K., Verdcourt, B. & Beentje, H., 2010. Cyperaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 466 pp.
  • Hooper, S.S. & Napper, D.M., 1972. Cyperaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 3. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 278–348.
  • Lye, K.A., 1981. Studies in African Cyperaceae 20. New taxa and combinations in Pycreus Beauv. Nordic Journal of Botany 1: 617–622.
  • Michelan, V.S. & Vanzela, A.L.L., 2009. Estudo citogenético em espécies da família Cyperaceae Juss. Resumos do 55º Congresso Brasileiro de Genética, 30 de agosto a 02 de setembro de 2009, Centro de Convenções do Hotel Monte Real Resort, Águas de Lindóia, São Paulo, Brasil. p. 8.
  • Nutsugah, S.K., Tsigbey, F.K., Dzomeku, I.K. & Bimpong, I.K., 2003. Survey of rice diseases and insect pests in northern Ghana. Journal of the University of Science and Technology (Ghana) 23(1): 7–15.
  • Scholz, H. & Scholz, U., 1983. Flore descriptive des Cypéracées et Graminées du Togo. J. Cramer, Vaduz, Liechtenstein. 360 pp.
  • Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. 2nd Edition. E. and S. Livingstone, London, United Kingdom. 1457 pp.

Sources of illustration

  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.


  • M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2011. Pycreus lanceolatus (Poir.) C.B.Clarke. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>.

Accessed 8 March 2020.